Spring 2018 Newsletter

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Chairman’s messageJackie Arnot

2017 – 2018 has proved to be yet another successful year for our group. We’ve had some really interesting talks and outings and I hope you’ve enjoyed them; I know I have! I want to thank everyone who has supported our events and assure you that every single one of you is important to our National Trust Centre.

Our talks have been interesting and varied, ranging from “Tales from the Smithy”, the Pioneer Sailing TrustA red-sailed fishing smack, The History of Chelmsford High Street (which drew in a large number of non-members), the Gunpowder Plot (which linked in well with the BBC1 programme “Gunpowder”, watched by many of us). We were sorry for our de Haviland Aircraft Museum speaker as his journey from London Colney had taken 3 hours due to problems on the M25; his talk was fascinating nonetheless. We were all delighted to welcome Bianca, a beautiful puppy, being trained by the Worboys for Canine Dogs (to those who added another £43.50 to our Group’s donation, the Canine Partners Talks Team set a letter of grateful thanks). As I write, we are looking forward to hearing about changes to our Museum, and at the AGM hearing “The fascinating story of William Potter” by one of our popular speakers, John Frankland, with our last talk being “The History of the Handbag”.

I’d like to give Paul Chaplin special thanks for arranging our outings once more, each one interesting in its own way. Al and I were SO sorry to miss the holiday in the Lakes due to my Op, but by all reports those who went had a great time.

Thank you to everyone who supported our magnificent stall at the Cathedral Advent Market. Special thanks must go to Olive and Thelma for their tireless, imaginative knitting and craft work, to Laurie for his marmalade and chutneys, to Beryl for her decorations and Eileen for bits and bobs. Their work meant that we raised a profit of £975.00 to be used on the National Trust Wish List. Amazing! Keith Otter continues to work on our “Chelmsford NT Group” website and we are most grateful to him for keeping it up-to-date. [A pleasure ma’am!]

Nationally you’ll know that in March we have a new Director General, Helen McGrady, this time one who has worked for the Trust for 12 years. We look forward to this.

We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our committee members for all their hard work throughout the year. Is there anyone who would like to help, either on the committee or by offering to help in a specific area? You’d be welcome!

Best wishes
Jackie

Problem Family?Shirley Deering

Perhaps it is best to live and let live, or you might find yourself up the Swanee!

“Good afternoon, Mr Braithwaite, my name is Andrew Curtis, I’m House Manager here at Hollydene Hall. How may I help you?”

“It’s about that family you’ve got living at the head of the lake. They threatened to attack me.”

“I’m extremely sorry to hear that, Mr Braithwaite. Please tell me exactly what happened.”

A large country house overlooking a lake“Well, I’d been walking round the lake, then decided to take the Woodland Trail. As I turned away from the lake, to go towards the path into the wood, this big, powerfully built fellow suddenly appeared in front of me. Every time I tried to get past him he dodged in front of me in a most menacing manner. Then his wife came and stood beside him and again, when I tried to get past, they became extremely aggressive.”

“I can understand that must have been very frightening for you, Mr Braithwaite. I think the problem’s that they were probably being over-protective. They have a young family, and when there is a large number of visitors in the grounds they become concerned for the safety of their children and the protection of their privacy.”

“Huh, over-protective! From what I saw of that lot its not them that needs protecting.”

“You met the children?”

“Oh yes! These three youngsters came out and stood behind their parents, imitating all their menacing moves and aggressive gestures.”

“Very disconcerting, I agree, Mr Braithwaite. May I suggest it is possible you had diverted a little from the designated path and come closer to their home than they were comfortable with. I will have some new signage put up, making the course of the path quite clear, and warning visitors to keep away from the area around the family’s home.”

“That’s not enough.”

I’m sorry, Mr Braithwaite, what more do you think I should do?”

“Send them away.”

“Evict them? I don’t think that would go down very well with Head Office.”

“No, no, just find them a new home, somewhere where they would be less likely to come into contact with the public.”

“Easier said than done, Mr Braithwaite. I would need to liaise with several agencies and I cannot see any of them being agreeable to the idea. To be honest, do you think it possible you might be over-reacting?

After all, they are only swans.”

2017 Group Holiday at Grange-over-SandsReport by Shirley Deering

Monday ,25 September

The rather damp and dismal morning did nothing to dampen the spirits of the record number of members who had signed up for five days in the Lake District, and were gathered in Fairfield Road, awaiting the arrival of the coach. Sadly, one couple had to cancel at the last minute, due to illness, and it was already known that Jackie and Alan Arnot would not be able to join us, Jackie having undergone a major operation only a week earlier. They were all very much missed and the good news was that Jackie’s operation had gone well. Due to the weather and traffic conditions the coach was a little delayed but, as soon as it arrived, Mark, the same driver who had looked after us on last year’s holiday, lost no time getting his passengers and their luggage safely stowed on board.

A large red-brick country houseOur major stop of the day was at Moseley Old Hall in Staffordshire. Here Mark’s patience and driving skills were truly stretched as he negotiated an incredibly sharp right-hand turn into an almost impossibly narrow lane. After countless manoeuvres, we finally reached the Hall and, not surprisingly, were greeted with the words “You shouldn’t have come that way!” They insisted they had sent Paul directions for the “proper” approach; obviously they&rssquo;d got lost in the ether!

Moseley Old Hall is a farmhouse with small cosy rooms, furnished in Elizabethan domestic style. It’s greatest claim to fame is that it is one of the places where Charles II found refuge during his six weeks as a fugitive after his defeat at the battle of Worcester. The knowledgeable guides gave us the full story of the King’s escape, and showed us the bed on which he rested, and the cramped space under a cupboard, where he was concealed when the Parliamentary soldiers arrived.

We left the Hall by the much easier route and reached Grange-over-Sands in the early evening. The Cumbrian Grand Hotel certainly lived up to its name, being a palatial edifice constructed in the days when the railway was opening up new regions to both business and holiday makers. Many rooms had a view of Morecombe Bay, some even had a small balcony. Dinner in the ornate dining room matched the splendour of the surroundings.

Tuesday 26 September

A courtyard in front of a large grey houseWe woke to better weather conditions than those of yesterday, and after breakfast were soon on our way to Grasmere. This is the area which gave Wordsworth much of his inspiration, and we visited the Wordsworth Museum, which provides many insights into the life and work of the famous poet. We also visited nearby Dove Cottage. Starting as the home of Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, it became, over the course of eight years, also the home to Wordsworth’s wife, their first three children, and his wife’s sister. It must have been a busy, bustling place, no wonder Wordsworth sometimes took himself off for long walks in the hills.

Shortly after noon we left for the short journey to Sizergh (apparently pronounced SIZER). This medieval house has something of the outward appearance of a castle, but inside it is a warm, cosy family home, with oak panelling and many other examples of fine craftsmanship in all the rooms. One of its greatest treasures is its collection of Gillows furniture. Sizergh has been the home of the Strickland family since 1239, one of the longest examples of habitation by the same family in the UK. It was a special delight to see everyday items and family photos scattered among the precious antiques.

Wednesday, 27 September

Another promising day weather-wise, and after breakfast, we set out on our longest road journey of the holiday, to Coniston Water. On arrival at Gondola Jetty we boarded the Gondola, which is a restored Victorian steam powered yacht, for a short cruise on Coniston Water. Wealthy Victorians enjoyed luxury travel in the vessel’s opulent salons. For us latter-day travellers there was the opportunity to watch the gleaming steam engine in operation, but only through a viewing window, to the disappointment of some members who would have liked a more “hands-on” experience.

Cruise over, we re-boarded our coach for the short journey to Hawkshead. The unflappable Mark negotiated the narrow roads with his usual consummate driving skill, though with occasional flashbacks toAn ivy-clad Victorian farmhouse Moseley Old Hall! Hawkshead has associations with both Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, Wordsworth having attended the town’s grammar school. However, the main attraction is the Beatrix Potter Gallery, a seventeenth century house which once served as an office for Beatrix’s solicitor husband. Now every room is filled with objects relating to her life and work, and examples of the artwork she used to illustrate her books.

Moving on again, we visited Hill Top Farm, the property Beatrix purchased with the proceeds from her first book. She took inspiration from the surrounding countryside for many of her other books, and every room at the Farm contains reference to the mini-masterpieces with which she illustrated her stories.

Our schedule indicated that we would return to the hotel earlier than on the other days, giving us some free time to spend in Grange-over-Sands. Paul had, however, teased us with the promise of a surprise treat – alas it did not work out. His plan was for us to visit the house in Coniston which was home to John Ruskin in his final years (with a guided tour and tea and biscuit). Having made all the arrangements, the staff then realised we were a coach party and the house is inaccessible to coaches. We all felt really sorry for Paul, but all enjoyed the free time in different ways, many taking advantage of the opportunity to explore Grange-over-Sands.

Thursday, 28 September

Another bright, sunny morning, probably the best day of the week. We boarded the coach for the short journey to Bowness, where there was time to look round before embarking on another “watery” experience,A arge stately home this time a boat trip to Lakeside on Lake Windermere. After leaving the coach we boarded a steam train on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, the time table being planned to connect with the lake cruises. We enjoyed a scenic ride of about three and a half miles in a train made up of 1950s carriages, headed by the steam locomotive. The former Furness branch line is now a family run business and proudly boasts ownership of the last two remaining Fairburn Class 4 MT tank engines. Back at Lakeside we again boarded our coach for the short journey to Holker Hall.

There was not time in one afternoon to do justice to Holker Hall, a magnificent stately home with award winning gardens and breath-taking views. The rooms contain furniture and ceramics by names such as Hepplewhite and Wedgwood, while the most spectacular outdoor feature is the cascade, which leads to a statue of Neptune, created by seventeenth-century Italian craftsmen. The day was co-incidentally, my birthday, and I was very touched by the stream of good wishes received throughout the day, culminating in a card signed by everyone and presented at the evening meal, followed by a rendition of “Happy Birthday”.

Friday, 29 September

Sadly, our last day, and we needed to be well organised if we wanted our luggage to be taken to the coach by the hotel staff, and had to have our cases outside our rooms by 7 am. This was because the staff moving the luggage were also the ones serving breakfast. We appreciated they would not be able to do two things at once! However, it all worked well and by 9 am we and our luggage were all on the coach, ready for the start of the long journey home. Unfortunately, that was the last thing that did go to plan that day.

Our first problem was that the section of the M6 on which we planned to travel, had been closed due to an accident. We diverted to the A6 and planned to pick up the M50 later, but that had been closed due to a lorry on fire. After much discussion and consulting of maps by Paul and Mark, the decision was to try a route via Cheadle, but it didn’t work too well. Our destination for the afternoon was Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire, which we should have reached soon after mid-day, giving time for a meal and a leisurely look round the property before leaving at 3pm. After several unsuccessful attempts at phoning the house, Paul decided we should abandon the visit and simply stop for a meal at a service station. However, after one last attempt Paul got through to Sudbury Hall, explained the situation, and they said they would keep some hot food for us.

We finally reached Sudbury Hall soon after 2 pm and were able to spend a little over an hour there. The Hall dates from the Restoration period and has murals and elaborate plaster- work by many famous names, also carvings by Grinling Gibbons. One of its treasures is a set of paintings of the mistressesA large Victorian cuntry house of Charles II, who all looked rather similar (or was that just the effect of the tedious journey?).

We had left Sudbury Hall by 3:30 pm, so were almost back on schedule, but further delays awaited us on the A14, simply hold-ups due to the volume of traffic. It was quite dark and somewhat later than we originally expected when we finally reached Chelmsford, but all our sympathies were with Mark, who still had to take the coach back to Colchester.

Many thanks to Paul for organising five wonderful days of lakes, hills, ancient stone cottage, dry-stone walls, sheep and, of course, excellent company. What more could anyone ask?

Visit to London film locationsReport by Paul Chaplin

A pedal bus on the corner of a street with lots of pedestriansWe had a very smooth run into London and we were dropped off outside the Imperial Hotel in Bloomsbury with an hour to spare before our excellent carvery lunch. This gave time for some of our members to explore the area on foot before sitting down for lunch.

After lunch we boarded the coach with Carol, our Blue Badge Guide, and were skilfully driven around London by Tim with our guide giving us information on the various film locations we were passing. Even if you did not fully listen to our excellent guide the view from the coach was most interesting with so much to see. For example I had never walked or driven past the Channel 4 studio which has an impressive steel 4 outside the building. There were many other interesting sights to spot such as a pedal bus near Fleet Street! (My apologies to the film buffs for lack of detail!)

After the tour we were dropped off about 4 pm at Borough Market which was still busy. We all found somewhere good for afternoon tea. Janet & I found a very exclusive restaurant tucked away and enjoyed tea and scone and jam! We left for home at about 5 pm and were lucky to have a good run home. We all agreed it was an excellent day out.

Christmas lunch on the ThamesReport by Paul Chaplin

This was another meal trip with a difference. Luckily, we had a smooth run to Windsor and Richard our driver parked the coach in the central coach park.People sitting at a long dining table This gave an opportunity for a quick look round or a drink before boarding our motor vessel Southern Comfort at 12 noon behind the Windsor sports centre.

The chef cooked a roast dinner on board so that it was ready to serve at about 1 pm. It was an excellent meal and the skipper gave a very informative commentary as we cruised upstream to Bray dining. To add interest to our trip we passed upstream through Boveney Lock with Windsor Race Course on the left bank. We passed many river bank dream homes before turning round and returning to Windsor. The sight of the now defunct Bray Studios which was the home of Hammer Films Productions until 1966 and was in use until 2012 was rather gloomy and haunting. The site will soon be re-developed.

Some of us went up on deck, it was a beautiful December day, and the sun came out warming our backs. Then back inside for coffee. We cruised into Windsor before turning round and back to our mooring.

On our way home we visited the Magna Carter memorial which was unveiled in 2015. If you get the opportunity, it is well worth a visit.